Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Month: May 2005

Hopper and Hornsby

I love Edward Hopper paintings. Though I know essentially nothing about art, I know that vivid and startling images speak multitudes to my mind and my innermost soul. I’ve posted Hopper’s “Gas”, a simple rendition of an old Mobil gas station on some God forsaken backroad in Anytown, USA. The overall feel of the painting for me is that of stark vacuity. The somber colors and hues, the utilization of shadow, the overall impending darkness all seem to ooze into a quiet solitude that draws you into the stygian vision that is uniquely Edward Hopper. In “Gas”, there is a lone man seen checking the gauges on the pumps, another slow day, maybe.
I first saw this painting at the assisted living facility where my father currently resides. Time after time, visit after visit, I would look inextricably to Hopper’s vision of the world that surrounded him, amazed that so beautiful an image was once bound by the ties of the human mind. Years ago, Bruce Hornsby released an album titled “Harbor Lights“, a classic Hornsby album. It would be many years before I would discover that a Hopper painting actually graced the cover.
“Rooms by the Sea” is yet another creation by the man himself. I mention Hopper because I’m listening to the Hornsby album right now riding into Boston. I always wanted to paint or draw but I really suck at it. I never had that inate talent though I admire and am astounded by people that do. My mind just doesn’t seem to work that way. I love Picasso, Dali, Monet and artists like them but will never truly grasp the almost sacred ability required to reach that artistic plateau. I can relate to art through music stating that creation in general speaks to us all on very individual levels, visceral layers of understanding deeply embedded into the hidden core of our minds. Sometimes we can’t explain why something moves us so, it simply does. We then accept creation and subconciously continue searching through the crayon box for that next perfect and undiscovered color.

My ‘Roids’ are killing me

No anal dysfunctionalities here just a journal entry from a few months ago.
Put away the Preparation H…


Many years ago there was a video game called “Asteroids”. We used to call it “Rocks”. It was almost as simple as the archaic Pong game that graced nightclubs and bowling alleys across the nation. Basically, Asteroids was a game in which a small triangular spaceship (not entirely unlike the logo on Captain Kirk’s shirt on Star Trek) could be manipulated, turned, and fired into an asteroid
“Field of Doom” that perpetually leaked huge boulders from all sides of the dark screen. If you hit the asteroid, it would shatter into a gazillion pieces and God help you if you got hit by the expanse of floating shrapnel. If you got hit; you were toast and basically DOA. One life gonzo, time for a big dirt nap. The further you got into the game, the more obstacles you encountered. Occasionally, these little flying saucers, driven by aliens on psilocybin, would fly out of nowhere—AND at the most inopportune moment. They were to be avoided at all costs. I still hate those little bastards for what they did to me, psychologically anyway. As juvenile as the game was we would play it for hours on end, usually in nightclubs where we downed copious Black Russians and Cape Codder’s, libations to soothe our blistered and sometimes bloody fingers. I look at the simplicity of Asteroids compared to the games of today: Tom Clancy’s Rogue Six, Riven, Doom and on and on and on…
There’s really no comparison in complexity of programming and the stunning graphics and sound. You just need a PH.d to play them; read the 250 page manual and play the game for a minimum of 5 years before you can derive any satisfaction from them whatsoever. Yep, I am getting older.
The bottom line with video games is that:
#1) We hate to be terminated. Anywhere, anytime and for any reason
#2) We love to blow things up, kill things and have an AK-47 assault rifle at our disposal 24/7
Sometimes, it’s a simple fact of life—the game is over. Fini.
I think of all the quarters I pumped into machines like Asteroids or Space Invaders and sadly admit that I could have purchased a very small third world country by now.
But, hey, back then you had camaraderie, laughs, excitement for such a small price and it was always us against them; we pulled for each other even if we did ultimately get blown to smithereens in the end.
The one feature I loved the most on Asteroids was this thingy called “Hyperspace”. This was the definitive panic button. When your back was to the wall and you had nowhere else to go you hit this button. Your little spaceship would disappear, taking you out of harm’s way before relocating your ship somewhere else on the screen. Now and then it happened that Hyperspace would reposition you in a spot worse than where you just came from; you would then expire and go, “Ughh”. But sometimes
Hyperspace could award you an extra 20 minutes of playing time, another chance, another life, and total reincarnation.
It’s been 20 years since I played Asteroids and there have been times when I wished my life had a Hyperspace button. With a name like Murphy, I’d relocate somewhere on the Massachusetts Turnpike around midnight on a Saturday, most likely in front of an 18-wheeler going 80MPH, buck-naked and holding a silly rubber duck with a snorkel attached to the top of my head. Oh, my, God, I can just imagine the obituary. People would say, If only he’d hit his hyperspace button again, the stupid bastard.
I know Gary Larson would have gotten a comic strip out of it…

© michaelm 2005

For Sas (& Butterfly Kisses)

On Friday night, my oldest daughter graduates from High School. The seasonal ‘rite of passage’ promises to be emotional, bittersweet and ultimately gratifying as my wife and I watch the fruits of our collective blood, sweat and tears come to a rapid fruition.
It was only yesterday that I was teaching Sas how to ride a bike in the lush, emerald outfield of a deserted baseball field, the grass providing a natural cushion should she happen to fall. She would holler, “Let go, Daddy! Let go!” And in no time at all it seems that I did.
My wife and I have been blessed with a beautiful and intelligent child, now an incredibly complex young woman. Already accepted into a PreMed program at a very impressive local college, it’s her time to fly solo. Our job as parents has come to a brief end, a crossroad where we will get to witness just how well we’ve done; our semester is now over. Though she will remain forever in our hearts, she is not ours to keep. For all that she is and will hopefully become, keeping her would be an incredibly selfish thing for us to do. A part of me still wants to be selfish.
The world turns and waits for her, wondering if she will look back or go forward; again, a part of me wants her to look back. Friday night will be filled with endings and beginnings, smiles and tears, soaring souls and breaking hearts.
I believe I will kneel down before I go to bed Friday night and thank the good Lord for letting Sas grace our lives, teaching us just how deep love can grow. I will pray that He keeps her safe from harm and guides her to a destiny that is hers and hers alone. I will pray that she is eternally blessed with creativity (God’s personal gift), compassion and empathy for the new world and the people that will soon surround her. I will wish for her peace of mind, gladness of heart and wisdom far beyond her years. No matter what the future may hold, I will pray that she knows one small thing: as long as she graces the planet my hands will forever be holding onto, and balancing that little bicycle seat that carried her in that deserted baseball field just yesterday.

~I couldn't ask God for more
Man, this is what love is
I know I've gotta let her go, but I'll always remember
Every hug in the morning and butterfly kisses….. "Butterfly Kisses" by B. Carlisle

© michaelm 2005

Man – 1, Bank – 0

I wanted to post tonight but this story literally blew me away.
I simply had to pass it on. It is a bit on the lengthy side but if you're a relatively normal human being with a less than average savings account, you won't be able to stop reading until you know the final score.
Read it here .


Is there a hole in my head?

Hey, does anyone out there know what kind of hooch the good folks from
Kotex ™ are smoking these days? It’s gotta be killer. If you’ve yet to see the latest offering from this company you’re in store for a real dilly. The commercial is for a tampon to be exact. I guess these doodads can be used for more than just their superior absorbency. Maybe even reaching duct tape status as far as an all-purpose product is concerned, I don’t know.
The commercial opens with a dopey guy and girl in a boat. The guy is rowing out in the middle of this placid little pond. Suddenly, he looks between his legs (a Freudian slip, maybe?) and there’s this hole bubbling up pond water. The craft has inextricably sprung a leak. He immediately freaks and begins to frantically search for something to bail out the boat.
(camera now focuses on the calm, cool and collected girl)
The girl confidently reaches into her pocketbook and pulls out a Kotex ™ tampon. POP! She takes the tampon out of its pink plastic sheath and proceeds to “stick it” into the hole thereby plugging the leak. I’m watching this and squirming in my seat wondering what kind of corporate babboon would brainstorm an idea this unusual. The sexual innuendo should have been enough for the FCC to say, enough is enough, fellas. Put the tampons down and nobody gets hurt, ok? WTF?
We have reached a point where a commercial such as this graces living rooms all across the good ole’ US of A and we sit and take it all in, mezmerized.
Did anyone at Kotex ™ have the intestinal fortitude to lean into the strike zone, take one for the team and simply say, “You’ve got to be kidding me, right?” Obviously, the answer is an emphatic ‘no’.
I guess we’re supposed to laugh and say, “Oh, my, how clever, Gene. Look! She plugged the hole! That's just so cute!” It takes a lot to offend me but even more to totally weird me out. So, congrats all you kooky crazy sanitary product specialists, you’ve earned yourselves a blue ribbon here. Hey, maybe that could fit in the hole, too…

Ps. Next is my diatribe addressing the *new Bounty commercial with the male voiceover graphically describing the sexual longings of one everyday housewife, Mrs. Jones…

©michaelm 2005

Richie’s talking Ragtime (again)

It’s Sunday morning and I’m on the train into Boston. The sky is overcast and I’m listening to a Nicky Holland CD; a decent selection for a dismal day like today. My real motivation for listening to a CD is if only to buffer the sound of voices around me, mainly Teddie’s. Teddie’s an old eccentric man that rides this train every Sunday. The cheese fell of his cracker long ago and he’s harder to figure out than Chinese arithmetic. He talks to the air surrounding him, unaware of the stares from freaked out passengers. And, he’s REALLY LOUD. He sports a white/gray haired buzz-cut and has a ruddy complexion that makes him look ten years older than he probably is. His constant chitchatter reminds me of a character that Jon Lovitz made popular years ago on SNL: the Liar.
Teddie drives the conductors on the train bonkers because he’s forever changing seats and screwing up their count. He’s in a state of perpetual motion, an uncontrollable child badly in need of some high octane Ritalin. I wonder if he has family, anyone that possibly loves and cares about him. He must, right? Most of us take the people in ours lives for granted because they’re always there, unchanging. He just moved again- one seat closer to me. Teddie is for the most part innocuous and innocent but way on the other side of normal. He’s the perfect candidate for my ever expanding “box of rain”, my personal collection of the many strange characters that cross my path these days. His mouth is moving, spilling forth words that don’t seem to fit together properly. Maybe he goes to Boston to somehow fit in. People of his ilk litter the city streets more than the thousands of tossed Starbuck’s coffee cups. He has the chance to fit into this societal mosaic of a city that’s mainly unaware and unfazed by his presence. As Nicky Holland continues to sink into my idle brain, I watch Teddie continue his inner game of musical chairs. He zig-zags his way from side to side, seat to seat, never resting long enough to make sense out of the mad world rushing by the train window. The city will soon open her arms wide if only to embrace a Teddie that only she can know…

Good Morning Zombies

People that get up early in the morning love to tell you just that and just how early. I have to say I admire people that can actually do it with some finesse and style. Me? I am subterranean plant life covered in skin; maybe there’s a bit of caffeine trying to seep through my sleeping pores but other than that at 6AM—I am still, for the most part, fast asleep. My eyes are open, but my brain is resting, believe me.
I was on my way into Boston today on the 6:06 train. The sky was overcast and grey. The air had a slight chill to it but it wasn’t raining, yet. After finding a seat, I was half thinking about nodding off for a bit when I looked around the car at the people I was riding with. Man, oh, man. The scene was like something right out of a vintage Stanley Kubrick movie. I was riding with a car full of zombies of which I was one. Some people had their heads slightly cocked to the left or the right, their eyes as glazed over as a Krispy Crème Donut, and beta waves straighter than a barbershop razor. Maybe there was some drool spilling out of the sides of the mouth as well, I couldn’t be sure. It was Dawn of the Dead on the commuter rail.
There was a real go-getter sitting across from me reading a book on “Epidemiology”. I’m thinking, dude, it’s not even seven o’clock, put that crap away, you’re totally freaking me out.
There’s another guy at the far end of the train that looks waaay out there.
Serial-killer-out-there. The only thing moving are his beady little dark eyes. Ewww, he was creeping me out.
I’ve been taking the earlier train because it gives me a bit more time before I have to get to work after getting into Boston. Maybe it’s better, I don’t know. This time of the morning has never thrilled me anyway. Actually, truth be told, I think it s-u-c-k-s the proverbial big one. People that have that “up and at ‘em” mentality are in desperate need of sedation. Alright, maybe I’m just jealous because at this time of the morning my brain is covered with this icky cranial spooge of sorts. Java doesn’t remove it, no matter how many cups of the stuff I put into my body. A three wood to the groin could possibly work but that’s nuts. I’m better off joining the “friends of Van Winkle” faction already twenty winks ahead of me. Our waking hours are so overrated…

© michaelm 2005

Freud would have loved this guy

I realize Jackson has done some nice things for kids with cancer and whatnot, but you gotta admit, this guy is one weird character.

It was the late seventies (August 8, 1979, to be exact) when Michael Jackson released “Off the Wall”, a landmark album that was produced by Quincy Jones and featured some great musicians and several well-written No.1 songs. I remember the album cover with a picture of a smartly tuxedoed Jacko standing with his back against a brick wall. These days his position has shifted a bit as we find him actually facing that same brick wall. I guess that’s life; one day you’re a star, the next, BANG! you’re slapped with a search warrant and subpoena by the LAPD and charged with sexual misconduct. The always reliable media machine along with an all too inquiring public wants to know, just what the hell happened to Jacko? He used to be so, well, cute…

The world has had just about enough of the eternal trial.
Does anyone really care about this guy? Alright, the moonwalk was pretty cool.
Who knows, we may see some Jackson-style products hit the shelves soon. Neverland Ranch dressing? Cracker Jacko’s? How about an updated version of the already famous Mr. Potato Head featuring Michael’s little old nappy head that we all remember so well? I think SNL has already exploited that one.
I just want to hurl chunks when I read about the inappropriate touching, the steamy showers, the explicit masturbatory dialogue, and the copious cups of liberating Jesus wine. Let’s not forget those crazy pillow fights too.
Pillow fights? Ooh, let me get into my furry jammies with the choo-choo trains on ‘em. Whether he’s guilty or not is beside the point. The guy is a multimillion dollar freak show and should never even be allowed to baby sit much less procreate.
He’s been in and out of the news so much lately that I’m sure by now he must own some CNN stock. (and I hear it’s doing quite well)
I’m somewhat shocked when I see the news footage of Jackson stepping out of his limousine daily, before entering the courthouse (are vampires supposed to be out during the day?). His compromised gait allows for the cameras to focus on his almost wax-like complexion. Good God, go get some sun, dude, you’re way too white. You’d think with his kind of money he could spruce himself up a bit, ya know? Let’s just call a spade a spade and book Mikey on the next NASA flight outta here. They say there’s a place for everyone. Unfortunately for Jacko, it ain’t on this planet.

© michaelm 2005

The NBA buries the “suck” needle ( once again)

I was thinking about the NBA today after watching the Boston Celtics weirdo catastrophe last night. Although they won the game, they ultimately lost the battle because of their impatience and unsportsmanlike conduct. With roughly 2 ½ minutes left in the game, Paul Pierce (a choke, a great athlete, but still a choke) deliberately elbowed an unsuspecting guy from Indiana in the face, drawing a technical foul—an unnecessary foul at that point of the game and a stupid act that Pierce should have had the professional fortitude to ignore. Time to turn the channel, the "suck" quotient is getting too high.
To me, the NBA saw its finest hours in the 80’s.
I am a lovechild of the “Johnny Most” era and loved listening to his always totally biased broadcasts of Celtics games. Back then you had the likes of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish (the Chief), Isaiah Thomas and Julius Erving, Kurt Rambis, Sir Charles Barkley, Bill Lambeer (a Detroit bastard, but we loved him anyway) and Magic Johnson—the list goes on and on and on….
These guys played with finesse, integrity and a heavy dose of inspiration, heavily reliant on rivalry and raw emotion. You could see it and smell it and experience it on the nightly sportscast if you couldn't catch the game. These days we have guys like Allen Iverson (a great role model, yeah right),
Ron Artest (a guy that's almost too ripped to play b-ball anyway) and countless others that round out the hip-hop gang (or is it gangstas?).
Basically, they’re all thugs, plain and simple. They make the game all about showboating and self gratification. It’s totally sickening and makes me want to puke. I used to love the Celtics but I’d be hard pressed to tell you who started the game last night. With but a modicum of talent and egos bigger than their salaries, the game has totally lost its esssential blood, guts and luster for me.
Please, dear God, show me the heart of the game again and maybe I’ll watch. Until then, for me, the NBA will stand for “Needless Bullshit Association”. Right now that’s all it really is…

Jobson’s Cove, Bermuda

I went to lunch with a good friend today. We ate at the Rattlesnake on Boylston Street in Boston where I ate way too much. On the way there, I walked by a sign advertising Bermuda. I was there a little over a year ago but the sign brought back all the wonderful memories in one fell swoop. This is my favorite beach in the world. It's called Jobson's Cove and can be accessed by walking the footpaths that lead off of Warwick Long Bay in Southhampton. Should you ever go there, let me know and I'll give you more explicit directions. There are exotic birds that fly in the air and various tropical fish of every hue swimming in the cove. It's truly my blue heaven…

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